For Austra ringleader Katie Stelmanis, Damian Taylor was the first engineer who understood the needs of an electronic act. "All the engineers I've worked with previously specialized in rock and punk music," says Stelmanis. "It was like night and day working with Damian. He would spend half a day just getting the bass drum to sound a certain way. He mixed it to sound good on a sound system."
These days, the 33-year-old, Halifax-born musician, programmer and mixer is Björk's go-to geek. Over the past six years, he's become the Icelandic pop star's resident tech expert - in the studio as the engineer for her 2007 album, Volta, and her forthcoming multimedia Biophilia project, and onstage playing the Reactable as the musical director of her band.
"My duties one day might be driving a van, and the next I might be programming crazy software systems and the next day mixing a record," he says.
Late in his decade-long stint as a freelancer in London, UK, Taylor had a sudden revelation during a day off from the Icelandic pop star's 2007 world tour. He was visiting a friend in the coastal town of Gibsons, BC, when he realized he'd had enough of London's confined living spaces and decided to move to BC with his wife and young daughter.
Eventually, though, he tired of isolated forest life and relocated to Montreal, where, in a warehouse space in Mile End, he's built a 1,000-square-foot studio with the acoustic accuracy of a $2,000-a-day London mix room. There, he hopes to work with up-and-coming Canadian acts like Austra in addition to his A-list clientele, which includes the Prodigy, UNKLE and Arcade Fire.
"I want to be involved in the next evolution of Canadian music right across the board," he says.
Taylor, who came of age on electronic acts like Jeff Mills and labels Warp Records and Mo Wax, seeks to remedy what he sees as a rut in left-field Canadian music.
"In terms of the mass music that's getting out to Canada, it's quite a bread-and-butter, meat-and-peas kind of sound," he says. "Part of what I loved about England was that you could get these really bizarre records onto the charts."
Right now, Taylor is working madly to finish Björk's Biophilia - which involves mobile apps and bespoke instruments that harness the Earth's gravitational pull - in time for its June premiere at the Manchester International Festival.
"There's a lot of crazy shit we've been doing on this next record," he says. "The whole project is pretty massive."
Taylor won't, however, be onstage or in the audience. He'll be attending a more important premiere: his second child is due at around the same time.